Edited Collection "Because My Story Matters: Struggle and Success on Higher Education's Frontlines" (Abstracts due 11.30.11)
We are interested in what it takes for students to succeed in college—what must be balanced, what must be sacrificed, what must be overcome. We think that students, their parents, educators, administrators, and policy makers need this information, too.
In 2009, Obama charged Higher Ed with dramatically increasing its students' rates of "successful completion," so 55 % of American citizens will have a college degree or certificate by 2025. This presumably meritorious goal may be misdirected as changes in education ideology and policy are being made absent a clear, shared definition of either "success" or "completion." Political rhetoric on all levels is rightly acknowledging that many students today have significant and diverse barriers to success; however, the need to secure funding is leading some institutions to rely on historically inflexible gauges of success—like the graduation rates of "first-time full-time" students. This singular statistic often denies students' complex realities by prioritizing some students' stories over others.
We believe that for real and meaningful change to occur in higher education, the voices of the real people on the frontlines need to be considered before we institutionalize definitions and policies. We are seeking narratives and interviews that tell the experiences of students--those who achieve despite great obstacles, those who challenge traditional notions of success by forging their own paths, those who struggle to keep one foot in the door, those who don't manage to do so—and those teachers and advisors who have always invested time and personal energy in those individuals, even without the national incentives.
Specifically, we are interested in narrative essays or interviews, written or co-authored by students, educators, advisors, and other ground-level college employees, that feature specific student experiences that should inform—or even challenge-- national discussions of "success" and "completion." We envision receiving essays or interviews responding but not limited to the following questions:
• What motivates individuals to pursue a college education given their unique life circumstances?
• What kept them on that path as they pursued a degree or certificate?
• Conversely, what made them decide to leave that path?
• How does their experience challenge institutional definitions of "success" that often rely on full-time status or a certain time to degree?
• If they were able to meet the traditional definition of "successful completion" by obtaining a degree or certificate as a full-time student, what did that commitment entail?
• What investment of time, energy, skill, money, etc. did it require of the instructor or advisor to assist one particular student with said challenges?
Send abstracts (250-300 words) and inquiries to Susan Bernadzikowski and Jennifer Levi (Cecil College) at firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 30, 2011. Please include contact information and a short bio that is relevant to the project.
Final essays/interviews of 2000 words maximum due Feb. 15, 2012.